Jimmy Failla is making the most of each opportunity presented to him. The one-time taxi cab driver was recently named the host of Fox News Saturday Night, the network’s weekly weekend primetime talk show. His goal for the show is to make America laugh while discussing topics everyone has been buzzing about throughout the week.
He debuted in the role this past Saturday, the weekend before the Iowa Caucuses.
Failla has been fully entrenched within the Fox News Media ecosystem since joining as a writer in 2016, bringing his comedic take across Fox News Media’s platforms during daytime and primetime programming. He was featured in the network’s 2023 year-end special, Who Can Forget 2023, and hosted a nationally syndicated radio program Fox Across America, weekdays, 12-3 p.m. ET on Fox News Audio.
Fox Across America launched in March 2020 on 27 radio stations and can now be heard on over 150 stations nationwide.
Failla has a book coming out from Fox News Books at the end of the month titled Cancel Culture Dictionary – a light-hearted look at the topics, people, objects, etc. that have been “canceled.” He just released his one-hour stand-up comedy set, Jimmy Failla: They’re Just Jokes, on Fox Nation, which he performed in front of a sold-out crowd in Long Island.
TVNewser recently spoke with Failla for the first time, getting his thoughts on Fox News Saturday Night—which he sincerely believes can be the most bipartisan show on TV—his new comedy special debuting soon on Fox Nation, and more.
How did the first episode of Fox News Saturday Night go as the new host?
Well, we made a big campaign promise when we were marketing the show that Fox News Saturday Night, as a comedian, is not about the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. It’s about “the keg party,” meaning it’s a one-hour show that anyone can tune into with the expectation that they’re going to have a good time. It could have been on any channel, anywhere. It was a good old-fashioned comedy show. We talked a lot about pop culture, a lot of games, a lot of ridiculousness. But most importantly, we just gave people an outlet where they had an hour when we weren’t fighting about politics. As a comedian, I obviously have political opinions, but I’m here for the vibe, and I feel like politics is killing our national vibe right now in terms of people not co-existing. So, I’m trying to be the autonomous zone between North Korea and South Korea where you can just kind of meet in the middle and not shoot at anybody, and that’s the goal. So, I feel like we’re one-for-one.
What do you envision for the program?
Well, I think what we are quickly establishing is that comedy is what ultimately unites the country. There are a few things – music, we all like to listen to songs or like to dance. Sports, movies, pop culture, but there’s nothing more unifying than comedy. Because when you’re laughing, it’s the best emotion you can pretty much experience, and at our core, we all like to laugh. So, what I’m learning already, is just in the instant feedback you get after you do one of these shows, you get a big social media response, and I just keep hearing that people are patently shocked that that was a Fox News show, because they think they expect more politics. You’re doing it on a news channel, but the truth is we have a lot more to talk about. I think what happened is politics became so entertaining, like in the Trump era, that they almost overshadowed entertainment. We spent more time watching politics than movies, music, and award shows. I was actually upbeat by the fact that just the Emmys this past week weren’t particularly political, and it was a pretty good show, and I was happy to see that. I think that’s what you’ll expect from Fox News Saturday Night is a return to the age where everybody can get along with everybody. I don’t have a big sweeping political, rhetorical speech, but I do believe that laughter trumps any other emotion that comes out of your TV on a daily basis. If you can establish that your only priority is to have fun, I think we’re going to have the most bipartisan show on TV.
There has to be an appeal to political comedy even though you’re trying to veer away from it.
The answer to how you do that is we’re giving people their vitamins by putting them in their apple sauce. What I mean by that is we’re letting them digest politics without even realizing they did. For instance, this week, we have the Iowa caucuses. They just came and went; it would appear that [Donald] Trump won, but we’re not going to analyze the Iowa caucuses through the prism of who’s going to win New Hampshire and who should drop out of the race. We’re going to analyze the Iowa caucuses this Saturday night based on which political candidate would make the best wingman at the bar. You get the news of Iowa, but more importantly, you get the analysis of a skate(?), and that’s what we’re going to have a very heated debate about. That’s a way of giving the viewers politics, but not from the angle of analytics. I think we deserve, as a country, we really do, an hour a week where it’s not the other thing because I feel like there’s too much late-night doing that.
Like [Stephen] Colbert, I know, is talented; I know there’s an audience there on CBS, but if that was my show, I wouldn’t tell you 99 Trump jokes out of 100. For comedy to work, you have to catch your audience off guard. It’s a trap door. If they see where the trap door is going to open under their feet every time it stops falling down the chute, you don’t get that spontaneous laugh. So, I think what we’re going for is politics through the unexpected or the unexplored lane, if that makes sense?
You touched on this earlier, but what stood out to you from the just concluded Iowa caucuses from a comedian’s standpoint?
We laughed at Nikki Haley today on my radio show (for) saying that the people have spoken, and this is a two-horse race. She came in third! So, if this is truly a two-horse race, I guess she means that she and her assistant are going to be traveling on two horses the rest of the way because the money’s drying up. I want a place where I can call out Republicans for saying silly things like that. It’s the optics of politics. I think that’s what our show is aimed to do. We’re going to do something called “the translator,” where a politician is going to speak Republican or Democrat, and we’re going to subtitle their dialogue to tell you what they’re really saying in plain English.
The existence of Gutfeld! as a late-night comedy talk show opens the avenue for your show to exist on the network. Why does Fox News Saturday Night work on Fox News?
Well, I’ll tell you the truth because people who consume a lot of news do need to laugh, considering how grim a lot of the news feels these days. So, I think, for one, the news builds up an appetite for a big outlet. I think, for two, [Greg] Gutfeld’s success has very much created a market for me to make the modest progress that I have. I think if you were looking for a difference between two shows: His being Monday through Friday, and the much bigger show, his is happening right in the middle of the news cycle. Sean Hannity goes off the air, Gutfeld comes on. It’s a very newsy time, so he probably does more politics than me. He also happens to be very good at it. That’s a strong suit. For me, what I have the advantage of doing is I’m happening at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night when everybody in my audience is either half-drunk or falling asleep after dinner, whatever the heck they’re doing. I am in a very unique space where I think we have more freedom than a lot of weeknight shows might because we’re not stuck in the middle of the news cycle.
Explain the transition from cab driver to comedian.
I drove full-time in New York City. I drove a Yellow Cab, and anybody who tells you that we don’t have life on other planets has never driven a taxi in New York City. I have met people from several planets you’ve heard of, a few planets you haven’t heard of; time travelers, hobbits. I think what makes the show unique is because I have such an everyman background; I can communicate with just about everybody. Because that’s what driving the cab is, the door swings open, and you have no say over who gets in – Republican, Democrat, or anything in between. So, I think the way I made the transition is I was doing comedy here in New York City at the Gotham Comedy Club down on 23rd (Street) and 7th (Avenue). A Fox booker saw me on a Sunday night and invited me to appear on the channel on a Monday. I appeared on [Lisa] Kennedy’s show, and I showed up with not a huge background in politics but a way of communicating that was very “street-level analysis,” which, I think, for the average viewer, is a lot easier to consume than some of these people who read books and stuff. The only book I’m reading is The (Daily) Racing Form at Belmont Race Track. I know several chapters in the Whiskey Bible if you want to get into it on a technical level. But the point is there is an accessibility to me and my intellect because it’s the intellect you grew up around. I’m just part of the gang, and I think that’s my superpower. I don’t have any formal broadcast training. I just know how to sit down in front of a camera and be a human being, and I think in this day and age where everything is so carefully strategized, they’ve created a market for somebody like me who isn’t capable of strategy. This is what I’ve got, this is what I’m going (with), and the fact that it’s resonating with people is a good thing because I don’t have another gear.
You have a new book coming out on Jan. 30 from Fox News Books. Explain what The Cancel Culture Dictionary is all about.
The Cancel Culture Dictionary is a 26-chapter book where every letter of the alphabet represents something that was canceled. Whether it’s because someone tweeted something bad or said something crazy on the radio. I’m basically making the case that what cancel culture has done has broken the compass in society. What I mean by that is we’re now pursuing sources of joy for sources of grievance. Meaning people go to comedy shows, and they go, “Hey, is it okay for Dave Chappelle to tell that joke?” When the truth is comedy, which is supposed to be a source of joy and, escapism isn’t supposed to matter. You are supposed to treat jokes like a buffet. If you see an item you like, you throw it on your tray. If you don’t like the item, you just keep walking. You don’t stand there and argue with the chef. Cancel culture now has us arguing with the chef. There are people who consume comedy music and movies with an eye on what to be upset about instead of an eye on listening to them and enjoying them. So, I’m trying to make the case that certain people deserve grace in society. I don’t mean criminals. If there’s a comedian who commits a crime, Bill Cosby should obviously die in jail, but a guy who’s getting paid in chicken fingers at the Chuckle Hut in Piscataway (NJ) should not be held to the same speech standards as the United States Senate, and that’s what I’m trying to make a case for. We need to get back to a world where we stop policing what people say and focus more on what they do. Because as we’re canceling comedians or going after spokespeople, the actual crime rates are going up, and I promised the crime rates are worse for us than the joke rates.
You are embedded within the Fox News Media ecosystem. In addition to your book, you recently released a self-titled stand-up on Fox Nation (Jimmy Failla: They’re Just Jokes), and you have a nationally syndicated radio show on Fox News Audio; what about it makes you comfortable dealing with them?
This is the truth because they’re real people, and what I mean by that is, if you look around at the schedule every week, some big-name Fox person is on the road doing a meet and greet at town hall, a book signing. We, more than any network in the history of media, interact in person with our viewers on a consistent basis, and that’s why I can thrive here. I couldn’t thrive on another channel because there’s this elitist TV vibe where the stars are stars. They don’t appear on each other’s shows; they certainly don’t go out and do live events.
At Fox News, if you were to walk the halls here, the biggest stars in the building are the two guys who make sandwiches on the 3rd floor. They’ve been here for 20 years; they have an inside joke and a special handshake with everybody here, and that’s what makes this place pop. It’s that everybody here at Fox owns a percentage of the team in terms of our emotional investment in one another. Which is why when you watch the channel, you’ll see the guy who’s on Fox and Friends in the morning on somebody else’s primetime show at night. You’ll see the guy in the midday (hours). You’re never going to turn on MSNBC and see Joe Scarborough, the morning host, on Lawrence O’Donnell’s 10 p.m. show. They don’t overlap and interact the way we do, and that’s what makes this work. Fox News, at its core, is like a really well-dressed high school. In high school, everybody sees each other in the hallways and, high fives and fist bumps, and has a laugh. That’s what this is, but instead of classrooms, we’re running to TV studios. For somebody like me who really doesn’t have much to offer other than a pretty good time — you can thrive in an environment that prioritizes real people, and that’s why I’m doing well here. If I had to know what I was doing, I’d be screwed.
You have a new show on Fox Nation, Taxi Cab Comedy, coming out soon (Jan. 30); what should we expect?
Okay, so Taxi Cab Comedy is going to be coming out on Fox Nation, and it’s a series of interviews with me driving a cab because that’s how I started. So I’m back in my natural habitat, driving around in the checker cab, and I’m really just interacting with the public on just about anything, the way you would in a cab. [Talking about] dating, travel, comedy, politics, music, pop culture. It’s very spontaneous, and it looks like Cash Cab if we didn’t give away money. If you’re showing up for comedy, you’re going to like the show. If you’re showing up to win money and trivia, you’re really going to be disappointed.
Will there be lights in the car?
It won’t be Cash Cab-type game show lights. The lights in the car will be sirens because of the way I drive.